Animal Breeding & Genetics

Graduate study in Animal Breeding and Genetics can be pursued in a variety of areas including, but not limited to, theoretical quantitative and statistical genetics, molecular genetics, bioinformatics and functional genomics. Given the diversity of areas of study, there is no single program of coursework specified for students in this field.

Faculty from both the Departments of Animal Sciences and Dairy Science are members of the Animal Breeding and Genetics program, and all are listed subsequently. Requirements given below for admission and completion of a graduate degree in Animal Breeding and Genetics pertain to students pursuing a degree in the Department of Animal Sciences.

Application to the Graduate School

Admission Requirements
As you apply to UW-Madison, you need to be aware of two different sets of requirements; Graduate School minimum admission requirements, and department admission requirements.
Graduate School Requirements
The Graduate School sets the minimum admission requirements for all prospective graduate students. The minimum admission requirements are:

• A bachelor’s degree from an approved (accredited) institution.
• A minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours (approximately two years of work).
• Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB).
• An admitted applicant whose TOEFL (paper-based) test score is below 580; TOEFL computer-based test (CBT) score below 237; or MELAB below 82 must take an English assessment test upon arrival. You must then register for any recommended English as a Second Language (ESL) course(s) in the first semester you are in enrolled.
• International applicants must have a degree comparable to an approved U.S. bachelor’s degree and provide evidence of adequate financial resources for the anticipated duration of their program.

Department Requirements
Departmental admission requirements are in addition to the minimum requirements set by the Graduate School. The Department of Animal Sciences bases its admission on demonstrated scholastic ability, recent GRE (Graduate Record Exam) scores, letters of recommendation, and the personal statement or reasons for graduate study. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to contact faculty members they are interested in working with during the admissions process.

Masters of Science Degree Requirement

1. Candidates must complete 30 credits of graduate course work and maintain an average grade of B or better.

2. Specified course requirements are Animal Sciences 951 (Seminar in Animal Genetics and Genomics) every semester, and to complete (or show equivalence) Genetics 466 and Statistics 571. The degree program is determined by the student and by the student's advisor, with the approval of a mentoring committee. This committee consists of the student's advisor, and a minimum of two more faculty members; one from the Animal Sciences Department and the third committee member from outside the department. This committee should be selected by the student and advisor by the end of the student's first semester of study.

3. All degree candidates must complete a satisfactory thesis. Instructions on preparing a Master’s thesis can be found on the UW graduate school web site

4. At the completion of the degree program, the candidate will take a final examination administered by the mentoring committee. The examination will be oral, and includes questions relating to the candidate's graduate course program. The candidate will also be expected to defend the thesis.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements

1. Candidates must complete 51 credits of graduate course work and maintain an average grade of B or better.

2. Course program – Major
Specific course requirements are Animal Sciences 951 (Seminar in Animal Genetics and Genomics) every semester (after passing the preliminary exam, dissertators are not required to enroll in this seminar, but are expected to be active participants), and to complete (or show equivalence) Genetics 466, Statistics 571 & 572, and Animal Sciences Seminar. PhD students with a quantitative bent are also required to complete a graduate course in quantitative genetics (Animal Sciences/Genetics 610) and the special topics course (taught under Animal Sciences 875), “Linear models for quantitative geneticists” and “Molecular genetics for animal breeding”. The degree program is determined by the student and by the student's advisor, with the approval of the mentoring committee. The mentoring committee consists of the student's advisor and a minimum of three other faculty members; two or three faculty from the department and at least one faculty at arm’s length to the project of the student. This committee should be selected by the student and by the advisor by the end of the student's first semester of study towards the Ph.D. degree.

3. Course program – Minor
The purpose of the minor is to give breadth to a PhD. major. Cross-listed courses are permitted if distinct from the major area of study as judged by the major department. There are two kinds of minors: Option A and Option B.

The Option A minor requires:
A minimum of 9 credits in a single department/major field of study. Refer to the individual department for specific requirements; many departments require more than 9 credits.

  • Approval from the minor department.
    The Option B (Distributed) minor requires:
    - A minimum of 9 credits in one or more departments and can include course work in the major department.
  • - Approval from the major department.

  • 4. Teaching

Each candidate must serve as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for at least one semester-long course during their Ph.D. graduate program.

5. Preliminary Examination
The preliminary examination consists of an oral examination with questions pertaining to the candidate's graduate course program and area of study. Additionally, the candidate will defend his or her research proposal, which will have been submitted no less than 10 days prior to the preliminary exam date. The mentoring committee administers the preliminary examination.

6. Thesis and Final Examination
The original research conducted by the candidate must be summarized in a thesis. A Final Examination will be given after the completion of the thesis. The thesis must be submitted to the examining committee two weeks before the examination. The candidate is required to present an exit seminar on their dissertation research and to subsequently defend the thesis orally. The thesis must be acceptable from both scientific and literary standpoints. The mentoring committee administers the thesis defense, though both the seminar and defense are open to the public.

Faculty Participating in Animal Breeding and Genetics

Hasan Khatib

Hasan Khatib, Professor, Department of Animal Sciences. Identification of genes affecting early embryonic development, female fertility, and male fertility in cattle. Investigating genomic imprinting and effects of maternal nutrition on transcriptome and epigenome of the offspring.

Brian Kirkpatrick

Brian Kirkpatrick, Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, Department of Dairy Science. Mapping genes contributing to variation in reproduction and health in cattle and other species. Special emphases are genetics of ovulation rate and twinning rate in the area of reproduction and genetics of susceptibility and resistance to infection by Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (causative pathogen for Johne's disease) in cattle in the area of health.

Guilherme J. M. Rosa

Guilherme J. M. Rosa, Professor, Department of Animal Sciences and Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics. Quantitative genetics and genomics; Bayesian inference and Monte Carlo methods applied to genetics; Experimental design for genetics and genomics studies; Genome-enabled prediction of complex traits; Causal inference in observational studies.

Kent Weigel

Kent Weigel, Professor, Department of Dairy Science. Genetic and genomic selection of dairy cattle, including the development and evaluation of statistical models for predicting genomic breeding values, imputation of missing genotypes, cost-effective strategies for genotyping cows in commercial herds, use of genomic information to manage replacement heifer inventories, and development of programs to select for feed efficiency and other key dairy traits that are difficult or expensive to improve through traditional breeding schemes.